Marked by the rise of alternative media, the downfall of world communism and the rise of multiculturalism, the 1990s were a very interesting decade for film. Marked mainly by the Dogme 95 and the first feature-length CGI film, “Toy Story”, the 1990s is definitely a decade to be looked closer in cinema history.
Even though we do not have any CGI film or anyone associated with Dogme 95 on this list, the decade that marked the rise of independent filmmaking and, for many countries, the recovery on their way of producing film, the 90s has some amazing movies that nowadays are not as remembered as they should.
With that in mind, here is a list with 10 great films from the 90s that really deserve more attention from audiences.
1. La Vie de Bohème (1992), directed by Aki Kaurismäki
In 2017, acclaimed Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki won the Best Director award at the Berlin Film Festival, putting the spotlight back on some of his earlier work. Starting in the 1980s, his first feature film was an acclaimed adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel “Crime and Punishment”, Kaurismäki has more than 30 movies under his belt that include feature films, shorts, documentaries and collaborations.
In his 1992 film “La Vie de Bohème”, we follow Marcel, a Parisian poet; Rodolfo, a painter from Albania illegally living in Paris; and Schaunard, an Irish composer. During the film, these three penniless friends try to get by with the simple life they have.
This comedy / drama film is one of the best works in Kaurismäki’s career and there are many great and simple comedic moments in this movie helmed amazingly by the Finnish director. Also, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Louis Malle and Samuel Fuller make appearances in the film, making it a must-see movie for any cinephile.
2. Pizza, Beer, and Cigarettes (1998), directed by Bruno Stagnaro and Israel Adrián Caetano
Written and directed by Israel Adrián Caetano and Bruno Stagnaro, this film follows two friends who feel they are being ripped off while working for a taxi driver and start robbing his passengers. After that, when they try to start making robberies on their own, things start to get complicated for them.
Although this film is as visually simple as it could be for almost its entirety, “Pizza, Beer, and Cigarettes” is another film that states the good storytelling Argentinean cinema is so famous for. The movie has great moments of dialogue and straightforward character arcs that definitely point to the violent ending of this tale.
“Pizza, Beer, and Cigarettes” is a film that is definitely worth seeing, especially for its characters, as we can see the actions and reactions of them in this tough reality. Surely one of the most interesting films made in Argentina in the 90s.
3. The White Balloon (1995), directed by Jafar Panahi
Written by Abbas Kiarostami, this is the first feature film in the career of Jafar Panahi, the acclaimed Iranian director that won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2015 with the brilliant movie “Taxi”. This movie is a brilliant lesson – among many and many brilliant lessons – given by Iranian cinema for its simplicity.
Following the story of Razieh, a girl who wants a goldfish to celebrate the Iranian New Year and loses the money on her way to buy it, “The White Balloon” makes out of what seems to be an uncomplicated tale, a great perspective of Iranian society and the family relationships in that culture.
The movie won the Caméra d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995, an award given to the best first feature film in one of the festival selections. “The White Balloon” is a masterpiece for the way Panahi visually builds this narrative in very few locations and the way Kiarostami makes this appear to be a simple narrative and a way to talk about family and society.
4. Foreign Land (1995), directed by Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas
In 1995, Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas (the first mostly known for winning the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival with “Central Station” and the second for co-directing with Salles the film “Linha de Passe”) directed “Foreign Land”, one of the best Brazilian films of that decade.
Written by Salles, Thomas, Millor Fernandes and Marcos Bernstein, “Foreign Land” follows an immigrant who, after the death of his mother, decides to travel to Portugal. Without any money, he accepts a job delivering a mysterious package but loses it. Meanwhile, he meets a waitress who lives with a musician who’s addicted to heroin and trying to escape to Spain, and is chased by bandits that are after the package.
With great performances by Fernanda Torres and Fernando Alves Pinto, “Foreign Land” is considered by the Brazilian Film Critics Association (Abraccine) the 47th best Brazilian film of all time and is certainly a film worth watching for its amazing narrative.
5. Trust (1990), directed by Hal Hartley
Written and directed by Hal Hartley, an independent American filmmaker mostly known for his works in the 90s, “Trust” follows the story of Maria, a pregnant high school dropout who, as soon as she announces that she’s having a baby, is kicked out of her house and left by her boyfriend.
She ends up meeting Matthew, a temperamental man who has a talent for fixing electronic devices and who literally walks around with a grenade in his pocket. As the story moves forward, both of them develop a relationship and start to change their behaviour based on mutual trust.
Without a doubt, “Trust” is among the best American independent movies made in the 90s. Every line of dialogue of this film contributes to the story and the arcs of the characters are very good; their actions and the situations they’re in are all in accordance with this narrative. As the story progresses, we start to understand these characters’ motivations, fears, and their behaviour.
This film is a moving tale of two people who are definitely hurt inside, but start to develop a beautiful friendship that makes both of them change. “Trust” is definitely a movie that deserves more attention and is surely a must see film.